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Indiana Hoosiers’ bowl hopes rest on Nate Sudfeld’s replacement

Homecoming is supposed to be a happy occasion on a college campus, but for the Indiana Hoosiers they have a double whammy of bad news heading in to the game. Not only do the Hoosiers face Michigan State (5-1, 2-0 B1G), but they must also do so without long time starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld.

The junior signal caller suffered a separated shoulder on his non-throwing side, and that means surgery which will keep him out for the rest of the season, according to a report in the Indianapolis Star.

Indiana must replace a quarterback who has completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 1,151 yards and six touchdowns to three interceptions this season.

Replacing him on Saturday when the injury occurred was freshman Chris Covington, who didn’t exactly inspire with his 3-of-12 for 31 yards and two interceptions performance in the loss to Iowa.

However, there’s little doubt that Indiana’s hopes to make a bowl game will rest with Covington’s play moving forward.

No doubt the Hoosiers have the run game capable of helping them win games, but in Kevin Wilson’s offense the quarterback will always be the focal point of things. That isn’t likely to change because the signal caller changes.

When Sudfeld had his struggles last season, Wilson went to senior Tre Roberson and it nearly got the Hoosiers in to a bowl game.

What will be interesting is seeing how much bigger of a role running back Tevin Coleman has in this offense. As it is, Coleman has become the best part of the Hoosiers offense, leading the conference in total rushing yards and per carry average. He also averages a healthy

Despite the numbers Coleman is putting up, Indiana sits at 3-3 overall and 0-2 in the Big Ten and clearly needs to win three of its remaining six conference games to become bowl eligible.

Getting to that magic mark means trusting a quarterback who was recruited to Bloomington, Ind. as a safety. However, once he got on campus from Chicago, Ill. it was clear that the high school quarterback was going to be best at his natural home in the offensive backfield.

However, going from sticking at quarterback to starting in the Big Ten is a tall task for just about anyone. But, making your first start against Michigan State doesn’t make it any easier.

The opponent is going to be tough, even for a veteran like Nate Sudfeld — something the coaching staff readily acknowledges.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge, no matter if you had Peyton Manning sitting back there,” Wilson said, via the Indianapolis Star. “This is a good defense you’re playing this week.”

Should Covington not live up to what the Hoosiers need at quarterback, they could turn to another freshman — Zander Diamont.

Both were close competitors during fall camp, and the offensive coaching staff has confidence that either one could do what is needed to be competitive in running the offense.

“I have an extreme amount of confidence in what they can do,” offensive coordinator Kevin Johns said. “We’ll just have to go the drawing board and see exactly what that is.”

The Hoosiers’ have found a way to lose two of the games it needed to get to a bowl game in an easy way, but now it will be on the shoulders (no pun intended) of a freshman to do it the hard way.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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